The Battle of Alexander by Albrecht Altdorfer, 1529, Oil on panel, 158,4 x 120,3 cm, Alte Pinakothek, Munich
This extraordinary painting is part of a history cycle completed by various artists at the behest of Duke William IV of Bavaria (1493-1556) and his wife, Jacobea. Alexander The Great (356-323 B.C.) is depicted conquering the Persian King Darius in the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C. He stands before an immense universal eastern Mediterranean landscape that includes the island of Cypress and, in the distance, the Egyptian coast. Mounted on his armored battle horse, Alexander pursues the defeated Persian King, who has fled in his battle wagon. The victorious Alexander is located precisely at the center of the composition, in the midst of an overwhelming mass of warriors and directly beneath the cord hanging down from the framed inscription. The movement of the clouds picks up the confusion of the battle, thus increasing the drama of the event. By dispensing with precise contours of the mountains and clouds, Altdorfer has created the impression of a natural event abstracted from reality.
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